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Beyoncé and Jay-Z Named Their Child Rumi. Here's What to Know About the History Behind the Name

July 14, 2017 1:11 PM
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Beyoncé and Jay-Z Named Their Child Rumi. Here's What to Know About the History Behind the Name

Weeks after the twins were born, Beyoncé and Jay-Z finally confirmed on Friday, via Beyoncé's Instagram account, that they have named the new additions to their family Rumi and Sir Carter.

While "Sir" may call to mind a wide range of knights in armor, the name Rumi summons just one individual from history: Jalal ad-din Rumi, a 13th-century Persian poet whose work has remained beloved for hundreds of years. And, as it turns out, if the life of that original Rumi is any indication, the name is an appropriate one for a child in such a musical family.

Rumi was a follower of Sufism, a mystical Islamic movement, and believed that the world was a "tomb" that separated the soul from the divine. He taught followers (dervishes, a word that meant "beggars") that to release this "imprisoned spirit," they should dance with "reed flutes, drums, and tambourines," as TIME reported in a 1972 review of a performance by disciples of the movement at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Through music and movement, they connected the spiritual world to the world of mankind.

The poet's was a bold, risky perspective, developed at a time that wasn't conducive for free expression. He was a refugee, who fled from his birthplace in Afghanistan and found refuge in the city of Iconium (Konya in modern-day Turkey). "No other poet found such ecstasy in daily wonderment, in song, in vision, in wine, in dance and most important, in friendship," TIME explained in a 1999 feature on the most influential people in history, which dubbed him "mystic of the [13th] century."

Jawid Mojaddedi, an expert on Rumi at Rutgers, once described him as "an experimental innovator among the Persian Poets."

It was in the wake of this experience that Rumi's formidable output of poetry began: a catalog that in its surviving form runs to a dozen thick volumes. Rumi's masterpiece, the , is a fantastical, oceanic mishmash of folktales, philosophical speculation and lyric ebullience in which the worldly and the otherworldly, the secular and the sacred, blend constantly. For Rumi, the universe is like a tavern where people, drunk with desire and longing, collect and carouse until they finally remember their true calling: return to an Islamic God whose all-encompassing love is the core of every earthly love from the most trifling to the deepest and most passionate. "Where did I come from, and what am I supposed to be doing?" Rumi had asked. "I have no idea. My soul is from elsewhere, I'm sure of that, and I intend to end up there."

The God Rumi speaks of in his poems — or at least in Barks' translations of them — is one who seemingly has little interest in the intricacies of orthodoxy and doctrine. "Rumi keeps breaking the mosque and the minaret and the school," Barks told National Public Radio last year. "He says when those are torn down, then dervishes can begin their community. So he wants us all to break out of our conditioning, be it national or be it religious or be it gender based."

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